A Shoemaker’s Dilemma: Q&A with UT Alum and Author Spencer Wise

Set in contemporary South China, The Emperor of Shoes is about a young Jewish Bostonian preparing to take over his family’s shoe business. But he ends up falling in love with a factory worker who may or may not be using him as a pawn to start a pro-democratic revolution in the factory.

For author Spencer Wise, the topic is deeply personal and well-researched. His family has been making and designing shoes for five generations — the last 30 years in China. The book was recently featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review and called “one of the seasons most promising debuts.”

I sat down with Wise, a University of Texas at Austin creative writing alumnus, to chat about his novel and how it explores the clash of Western and Eastern cultures:

 

What kind of research did it take to write this novel and what inspired you to take on the project?

Like most Jewish novels, this one starts with guilt. My family has been in the shoe business for five generations, and it ends with me. Though it was my choice, I feel guilty for ending this lineage that in so many ways defines me. So, I wanted to connect to what my father and grandfather and great-grandfather knew about this ancient art of shoemaking.

I began writing early drafts of the novel in graduate school at UT, where I began developing the characters while studying under such great writers and teachers as Elizabeth Harris, Oscar Casares, Pete LaSalle and Jim Magnuson.

In the summer of 2014, I did a real apprenticeship, learning every facet of the shoe business while living in the dormitory of a shoe factory in South China. I interviewed many of the workers and made a few deep friendships with younger supervisors who showed me the inner-workings of the factory. Some were even generous enough to invite me to their homes to meet their families.

Before doing research in China, did you know where the story was going?

It’s easy to forget the real people behind our clothes, our shoes, our furniture. So, I wanted to make their stories visible. I’d like to think that’s one of the ways we develop empathy. When I started researching, I was surprised to find that two ancient cultures — Jewish and Chinese — shared this pervasive sense of family as something that’s nurturing and wonderful; and yet, at the same, a yoke or burden, some claustrophobic thing one can’t escape from.

But I didn’t have any clue what the plot was about when I first got to China. The young Chinese people I met were immensely proud of their country and heritage, but showed surprising dissatisfaction toward the Chinese government, its corrupt, hypocritical system and the widening income gap. They seemed angry enough to do something about it.

How do you feel about The New York Times calling it a novel for “our times”?

It’s an honor to be recognized on that scale as an author, but I also think the issues in the book — cultural clashes, globalization, migrant labor, activism — have been relevant for a long, long time. I think when Trump was elected with such a divisive agenda, these issues were thrust into the spotlight, which was lucky for me. But the novel is about a world that’s always been here. One that we mostly choose not to look at it in order to maintain a comfortable quality of life.

To what extent is this book meant to be politically provocative?

Well, certainly it’s a critique of global capitalism and whether or not it can ever be done ethically. But it’s also a book about family business and shoemaking as an art form. When I was writing it, I just wanted to tell the most honest and urgent story I could.

More than anything, it’s a novel about two real people yearning to find their own identities in face of serious obstacles wrapped up in old traditions and heritage and family. How much of that can you lose — as you see in hyper-capitalistic China or in the attenuating levels of religiosity among Jews — before we forget who we are? I don’t have an answer, by the way. I like what Chekov said about “Anna Karenina:” “The job of the novelist is to ask questions, not answer them. Tolstoy asks them beautifully.” I’ve paraphrased, I think.

Though the Dad could be seen as “the evil capitalist boss,” I was surprised to find myself having compassion for him.

The family are self-made immigrants who suffered and worked tremendously hard to achieve the American dream. At the same time, I was deeply troubled by the idea that a Jewish family — like my own — who have been subject to such persecution and discrimination in the past only to turn around and exploit migrant workers in China.

In reality, the factory managers and owners still work 16-hour days. Their lives aren’t very glamorous. So, I think the book portrays the universal human struggle to make a living and support your family by any means necessary. While in China, I noticed that many business people abroad succumb to their exhaustion and inability to speak the langue by hiding in their hotels — a choice that is, I think, subconsciously necessary to create distance between “us” and “them” that makes their jobs possible.

It certainly seems quite true-to-life. Is it at all autobiographical?

No, no. Not at all! It is funny, but I’ve been asked this question before. I guess I should take it as a compliment that it feels so real. I worked hard to craft characters that the audience would care about: Complex people facing complex problems. That was my aim. But nothing in this novel happened to me. My father is nothing like the dad in the book. And I never tried to take over my family business.

By Katie Lazarowicz, PhD candidate in Asian Studies

 

 

 

Germanic Studies Professor Discusses “Dopers in Uniform” at Texas Book Festival

Since 1995, the Texas Book Festival has connected Texas authors with readers through literary panels and readings, book signings, demonstrations, live music, family fun and local eats. This year at the festival, Germanic Studies Professor John Hoberman presented his third book on the social impacts of anabolic steroids, Dopers in Uniform: The Hidden World of Police on Steroids.

His newest book follows two previous works on the topic, including Mortal Engines (1992), which examines the sports world; and Testosterone Dreams (2005), which looks at the medical world. Visit Life & Letters, the magazine of the College of Liberal Arts, to read Hoberman’s Q&A.

 

Latin American Studies Alumnus Chronicles Peace Corps Journey in ‘Different Latitudes’

image of bookAs graduation looms right around the corner, many soon-to-be UT alums will be traveling far and wide on missions to change the world. From the Peace Corps to Teach for America, our jet-setting Longhorns will be making an impact in high-need regions of the world. In a book titled “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond” (Peace Corps Writers, April 2017), Latin American Institute alumnus Mark D. Walker chronicles his Peace Corps journey in various countries beset by poverty and political corruption.

Synapsis (from the publisher): Summer, 1971. A naive young man must decide his path upon graduation from a small university in Colorado. Amidst the turmoil of the counterculture years and the looming possibility of being sent to Vietnam, he concludes that he wants to travel, serve, and, if possible, save the world. As a Peace Corps volunteer Mark embarks on a vigorous cross-cultural experience in a Caribbean and two Central American countries, with a final stop in one of the more isolated areas of the highlands of Guatemala.

Though beset with a fear of the unknown and feelings of profound isolation due to being the only volunteer in a remote village, he eventually gets to know and appreciate the people of the rural communities he is privileged to live among. After a near-death experience takes him to another part of Guatemala and eventually to a horse town, Mark meets the love of his life, Ligia, who will bear him three children and be part of a lifelong commitment to and appreciation of this beautiful and unique country. Much of the courtship process will take place on a coffee plantation owned by Ligia’s family, where Mark experiences a different side of Guatemalan society.

While Ligia selflessly abandons her own career to focus on establishing a stable bi-cultural home for their three children during the violent Guatemalan Civil War, Mark’s “wanderlust” takes him on a four month solo trek through Latin America and then a country change based on threats from a guerrilla group. Mark’s 13-year career promoting rural development through various international NGOs begins when he sets up a local development agency in Guatemala to help the poorest of the poor, whose plight is at least partially due to the policies of his own government.

Eventually family circumstances force a radical career change and a return to the United States to begin a 30-year calling. Inspired by the “extreme do-gooders” he’d met along his journey, he takes some of the wealthiest American families in the world to meet some of the world’s poorest in some of the most isolated, unstable countries. This leads to many adventures, with both wealthy and poor growing from their shared experiences.

Mark’s career comes to a sudden and unexpected turn after he is let go as the CEO of one of these international NGOs, and this frees him up to focus on his three children and  six grandchildren. This twist in the road also provides a new opportunity to reflect on what he has accomplished, where he’s failed, and where the international NGO community has come up short. Different Latitudes is more than a travel memoir. It is a tale of physical and spiritual self-discovery through Latin American, African, European, and Asian topography, cuisine, politics and history.

Visit the author’s website to learn more about his good work in publishing and human rights advocacy.

Faculty Book Talk: ‘The Price for Their Pound of Flesh’

Image of book Tonight Daina Berry, professor of history and African and African Diaspora Studies, will discuss her book “The Price for Their Pound of Flesh” (Beacon Press, ’17) at 6 p.m. in the Gordon-White Building.

The book is the culmination of more than ten years of Berry’s research on enslaved values, drawing on data unearthed from sources such as slave-trading records, insurance policies, cemetery records and life insurance policies. Writing with sensitivity and depth, she resurrects the voices of the enslaved and provides a rare window into enslaved peoples’ experiences and thoughts, revealing how enslaved people recalled and responded to being appraised, bartered and sold throughout the course of their lives. Reaching out from these pages, they compel the reader to bear witness to their stories, to see them as human beings, not merely commodities.

The event is free and open to the public.

Faculty Authors Showcase their Works at the 20th Annual Texas Book Festival

image of logoBookworms, foodies, artists and scholars will partake in an annual rite of fall here in Austin: The Texas Book Festival! This Texas-size literary event will take place in and around the State Capitol and nearby venues on Oct. 17-18.

A record 300 authors are coming to the festival—the largest number in its 20-year history.  Here are just few highlights featuring education outreach events and top faculty authors from colleges and schools throughout the Forty Acres. Dates, times and locations will be available on the Texas Book Festival website later this month. Use this hashtag to join the conversation: #TXBookFest

Special Events

image of book and authorThe Wind in the Reeds: A Storm, A Play, and the City That Would Not Be Broken Wendell Pierce, Actor and Tony Award-Winning Producer
Moderated by Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement

On the morning of August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina barreled into New Orleans, devastating many of the city’s neighborhoods, including Pontchartrain Park, the home of Wendell Pierce’s family and the first African American middle-class subdivision in New Orleans. Pierce and his family were some of the lucky ones: They survived and were able to ride out the storm at a relative’s house 70 miles away. Read more here…

About the author: Wendell Pierce was born in New Orleans and is an actor and Tony Award-winning producer. He starred in all five seasons of the acclaimed HBO drama The Wire and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for the role. He also starred in the HBO series Treme and has appeared in many feature films including Selma, Ray, Waiting to Exhale, and Hackers. Since Hurricane Katrina, Pierce has been helping to rebuild the flood-ravaged Pontchartrain Park neighborhood in New Orleans.

15th Annual Youth Fiction Writing Contest
Co-hosted by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement

writingcontestThe Fiction Writing Contest encourages and rewards creative writing in Texas schools. Junior and high school Texas students are invited to submit a piece of original fiction, no more than 2,000 words in length. The submissions are judged by Texas Book Festival authors, local educators, and leaders in the publishing industry. Read more here…

Place and Race, a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Leonard Moore, senior associate vice president, DDCE 

image of authorsAuthors Wendy S. Walters and Jason Sokol discuss the dynamic and complicated course of civil rights over the past several decades in America. Racism emerges in unexpected locations, and the ways in which people resist, cope, and consent are not predictable.

Negroland
Margo Jefferson
Moderated by Shirley Thompson, Departments of Anthropology and Africa and African Diaspora

image of author Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and memoirist Margo Jefferson recounts growing up in a small region of African-American upper class families in Chicago during the civil rights movement and the genesis of feminism. With this point of view, Jefferson discusses race, identity, and American culture, through her own lens. Read more here…

 

Author Appearances

image of book and author Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City
Javier Auyero, Department of Sociology

Austin, Texas, is renowned as a high-tech, fast-growing city for the young and creative, a cool place to live, and the scene of internationally famous events such as SXSW and Formula 1. But as in many American cities, poverty and penury are booming along with wealth and material abundance in contemporary Austin. Rich and poor residents lead increasingly separate lives as growing socioeconomic inequality underscores residential, class, racial, and ethnic segregation. Read more here…

Reagan: The Life
H.W. Brands, Professor, Department of History

Image of author and bookRonald Reagan today is a conservative icon, celebrated for transforming the American domestic agenda and playing a crucial part in ending communism in the Soviet Union. In his masterful new biography, H. W. Brands argues that Reagan, along with FDR, was the most consequential president of the twentieth century. Reagan took office at a time when the public sector, after a half century of New Deal liberalism, was widely perceived as bloated and inefficient, an impediment to personal liberty. Reagan sought to restore democracy by bolstering capitalism. In Brands’s telling, how Reagan, who voted four times for FDR, engineered a conservative transformation of American politics is both a riveting personal journey and the story of America in the modern era. Read more here…

Destiny of Democracy: The Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library Mark K. Updegrove, Director, LBJ Presidential Library and Museum

image of book and authorPresident Lyndon B. Johnson played a monumental role in America’s quest for civil rights. The legacy of those efforts reached a crescendo from April 8 through 10, 2014, as the LBJ Presidential Library hosted a historic Civil Rights Summit to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. A host of luminaries—including President Barack Obama, the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office, and former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter—came to the LBJ Library to recognize the progress made in the country’s long, often troubled, journey toward civil rights. Read more here…

 

New Historical Novel by Former UT English Professor to Release this Fall

Harris headshotFormer UT Austin fiction writing and modern literature professor Elizabeth Harris will be releasing a novel Mayhem:  Three Lives of a Woman (Gival Press) this fall.

The historical novel, scheduled to drop Oct. 5, 2015, engages issues of gender, vigilantism, recovery from trauma, and nostalgia for the rural and small-town past.

Winner of the 2014 Gival Press Fiction Award, the book follows two stock farmers in 1936 Texas who are accused of castrating a neighbor. Mayhem is the story of their crime and its consequences, the violent past and standard gender relations that enable it, and its economic displacement of the modest, well-connected woman who occasions it.

“A great novel gives us Genesis, and so Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman calls a world into being. We get not only the odor and crackle of rural Texas beginning a hundred years ago, but also the spirits of that time and place. We suffer with a rancher’s wife, a woman catastrophically misunderstood. Violence proves inevitable — but then comes the real miracle. Elizabeth Harris summons up not one world but several, in rich and moving succession. Itʼs as if redemption were sympathy: as if to peer deeply into anyone is to understand everyone. If this sounds less like a God and more like a great storyteller, well, thatʼs what weʼve got. Harris squeezes palaver and tears from her Texas clay, even while making sure we see the gifted hands at work.”

— John Domini, author of A Tomb on the Periphery and other novels, as well as stories, criticism, and poetry.

Harris’ stories have appeared in a number of literary journals and have been anthologized in New Stories from the South, Best of Wind,  The Iowa Award, and Literary Austin. Her first book, The Ant Generator, received the University of Iowa’s coveted short fiction award.

The Writers’ League of Texas recently interviewed Elizabeth Harris about her favorite writers. She stated: “People ask you who your favorite writers are when they want you to talk about reading, and I name some books and their writers, but I seldom love everything a writer has written. I’ve been a passionate reader all my life, and I love many different books for different reasons.”

As yet untitled, Elizabeth’s current project is another contemporary novel with a historical setting. She and her husband, who are birders, divide their time between the Texas Coast and Austin.

Preview an excerpt of Mayhem at: www.elizabethharriswriter.com.

 

 

 

History Professor Wins Prestigious Book Award for ‘In Search of the Amazon’

This post, authored by Susanna Sharpe, first appeared on the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) website.  

garfieldHistory Professor Seth Garfiel received the prestigious Bolton-Johnson Prize Honorable Mention Award for his book In Search of the Amazon: Brazil, the United States, and the Nature of a Region (Duke, 2013).

The award was announced earlier this month at the annual conference of the American Historical Association in New York City. According to the website of the Conference on Latin American History, the Bolton-Johnson Prize is given to the best book in English on Latin American history published in the previous year, with honorable mention given to “an additional distinguished work deemed worthy” by the prize committee.

Criteria for the award include “sound scholarship, grace of style, and importance of the 978-0-8223-5585-4_prscholarly contribution.” The citation read at the awards ceremony praises Garfield’s work on a complex and often misunderstood topic: “Seth Garfield brings the best methodologies of social and political history into dialogue with new debates over environmental and transnational history. Examining the impact of World War II and the United States’ need for rubber on Brazilian policy in the Amazon, Garfield underscores the role of labor migration from the drought-stricken Northeast and competing efforts by military, medical, religious, and industrial leaders to forge a rational male workforce. The book traces transformations in ideas about race, gender, and family as central components in capitalist exploitation as well as in conceptualizations of ‘nature’ and ‘national resources.’ If contemporary environmental movements portray the Amazon as a pristine forest inhabited by traditional people, Garfield’s book lays bare the heavy presence of people and policy that continually made the Tropics.”

In Search of the Amazon was also selected by Knowledge Unlatched for a pilot open-access program for scholarly books. According to the organization’s website, through this pilot project, Knowledge Unlatched is seeking “a financially sustainable route to Open Access for large numbers of scholarly books.”

Garfield is director of the Institute for Historical Studies in the Department of History, and the LLILAS undergraduate faculty adviser. This semester, he will teach the graduate seminar Postcolonial Brazil.

Q&A: Professor and Poet Kurt Heinzelman on Adelaide Writer’s Week

KH-Beggs photoKurt Heinzelman, English professor, founding co-editor of The Poetry Miscellany and advisor and editor-at-large for Bat City Review, has been publishing poetry for 30 years in such journals as Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Massachusetts Review and Southwest Review.

Recently, Heinzelman was invited as a featured author to Adelaide Writers’ Week, an important part of the larger Adelaide Arts Festival held annually in the South Australian capital of Adelaide and considered to be one of the world’s greatest celebrations of the arts.

The prevailing theme for the 2013 Adelaide Writers’ Week was the exploration of secret histories — covering topics as diverse as the ancient world, the British Royal Family, the Balkans, marriage, old age, video games, World Wars, folktales, art world scandals, court rooms, Australia’s convict past, wine making, Chinese food and afternoons on the beach.

Heinzelman answered some questions about poetry, his time at Writers’ Week, and his hopes for further interaction between The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Adelaide.

What poetic works of yours did you read and why did you choose those pieces for this festival?

I read two poems of modest length. The first, called “Visiting the Somme,” was about the battle during WWI and contained a reference to Gallipoli, a battle that still produces great poignancy among Australians. The second, called “Summoning Dolphins,” is an epithalamion, that is, a wedding poem, for my daughter and her Australian husband, and the poem contains many references to Australia.

While in Australia, you also gave a talk at the John M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice. Could you tell us a little bit about the subject of translation and originality on which you spoke?

The précis for the talk was this: Ever since the idea of originality in poetic composition underwent a sea-change in the middle of the 18th century, the way we evaluate translation has borne the burden of that change, with confusing results. Originally, the term “originality” meant exactly the opposite of what it now means. Instead of meaning “the absence of ancestral origins” it meant “having an origin,” being grounded in the authority of the past, in tradition. This radical transformation of originality — this “translation” of the term — is one of the great shifts of aesthetic value in the history of human creativity.

But translations, of course, are always belated; they always come after an original. Of course translations know their origins. As Walter Benjamin bluntly put it, “A translation comes later than the original[s]” and not “at the time of their origin.” What chance does a translation have of attaining value when what is most valorized is originality?

How we assess the value of poetic translations is the subject of this talk. Ironically, the one time we use the word “original” in its original sense is when we are speaking of translations. And yet there is some sense in which translations are original, in both senses. If a translation is by definition belated, each new translation is . . . well, new. Assessments of the value of poetic translations, however, often criticize them for failing to be “original” in one sense because they are either overly or insufficiently “original” in the other sense.

As part of Adelaide Writer’s Week, you hosted an interview with esteemed and prolific Australian poet, publisher and editor John Tranter. What sorts of subjects did you discuss? As a fellow poet, is there anything you found particularly enlightening in the interview?

I was curious why, with the substantial body of work that he already has, he decided to pursue (successfully, as it turns out) a Ph.D. in creative writing! We also talked at length about the way he takes already extant poems by writers from earlier epochs and recasts them into his own “versions.” It’s not translation or adaptation or even imitation but a form of counter-creativity. I read some of the original poems and then he read his versions so that the audience of some 100 people, a tribute to Tranter’s importance and popularity, could hear exactly how he reshapes the originals into his own creations.

What can you tell us about further interaction between the University of Adelaide and The University of Texas at Austin?

This summer one of our graduate students in creative writing will spend a week in Adelaide acting as a mentor to their students who are moving from a bachelor’s program to a doctoral one. We are hoping in the near future for collaborations with the music composition graduate programs in both universities. The journal, Texas Studies in Literature and Language (TSLL), which I edit, will be publishing essays from an international conference that Adelaide will be hosting in 2014 on John Coetzee’s work. Coetzee, a UT Ph.D. and Nobel Laureate and resident of Adelaide, has placed his archive in the Harry Ransom Center, and there may be a chance to do an exhibition sometime in the future, one that might travel to Australia.

What projects are you currently working on? Any subjects or themes you are particularly interested in addressing in future poetry or scholarship?

I have a new book of poems coming out later this year, my fourth, and I’m working on a new one as well. Plus, I’ve become the writing of what may be a critical book on what I’m calling “Kinship Poetics.”

Kurt Heinzelman has authored three poetry collections: “The Halfway Tree” and “Black Butterflies,” both of which were finalists for the Natalie Ornish Poetry Award of the Texas Institute of Letters, and most recently, “The Names They Found There,” which was named one of the best poetry books of the year by Poetry International.

Author and Scholar, Elaine Scarry, Examines Beauty and Fairness

scarryHarvard University professor and award-winning author, Elaine Scarry, will share insight into how society thinks and talks about beauty and social justice at an event hosted by the Humanities Institute. The talk will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. in ACES, AVAYA amphitheater, room 2.302.

In her book, “On Beauty and Being Just,” (Princeton University Press, 2001) Scarry not only defends beauty from the political arguments against it but also argues that beauty does indeed press us toward a greater concern for justice. Taking inspiration from writers and thinkers as diverse as Homer, Plato, Marcel Proust, Simone Weil, and Iris Murdoch as well as her own experiences, Scarry offers up an elegant, passionate manifesto for the revival of beauty in our intellectual work as well as our homes, museums and classrooms.

j6675Scarry teaches in the Department of English at Harvard University, where she is the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and General Theory of Value. She has received many accolades, including the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism and honors from the American Academy of Science, National Humanities Center, Guggenheim Foundation and the Berlin Institute for Advanced Studies. Her essays have been included in Best American Essays three times, in 1995, 2003 and 2007. In 2005, Foreign Policy and Prospect named her as one of the world’s 100 leading intellectuals.

She has published seven books, two edited volumes, and numerous essays. Her first book, “The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World,” highlights the impossibility of expressing pain through words. This important book went beyond an analysis of classic literary texts to examine philosophy, medical case studies, personal injury trial transcripts, and documents of torture compiled from Amnesty International. Fore more about her work, visit this website.

The event is sponsored by the Viola S. Hoffman and George W. Hoffman Lectureship in the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Fine Arts.

Renowned Poets Read and Discuss their Works at Spanish an Portuguese Symposium

Posted by Molly Wahlberg, College of Liberal Arts

2484997“Extrañeza, Extranjería, Migración / Estrangement, Foreignness, Migration,” a graduate seminar in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese that convened between Sept. 25 and Nov. 9, recently coordinated with the department’s annual poetry event “Poéticas para el Siglo XXI / Poetics for the 21st Century.” The centralizing theme for both the seminar and the event, which took place on Oct. 27 and was free and open to the public, was the ways in which poetic language confronts and incorporates a variety of differences provoked by cultural contact in contemporary Spain. ?

Internationally acclaimed poets Concha García, Ana Rossetti, Jenaro Talens, Bahia Awah, Limam Boicha, Clara Janés and Abderramán El Fathi led graduate seminar class discussions during their residence around topics of poetic production and reception in Spain today. ? ?

Before the first poet arrived, the students examined recent trends in Spanish poetry and began reading poetry and theoretical works on the seminar topic. The poets themselves have lead class discussions during their residence around poetic production and reception in Spain today. Graduate students have conducted interviews of the poets, which they will publish in a special issue of the department’s graduate student peer-reviewed journal, Pterodáctilo.

The symposium culminated in a thrilling three-hour poetry reading, in which Clara Janés and Bahia Awah participated via Skype from Madrid, while Rossetti, Talens, El Fathi, García and Boicha read to a packed house in the Chicano Culture Room. The reading marked the first time that a Moroccan poet (El Fathi) has ever participated in such a forum alongside Western Saharan poets (Awah and Boicha).

About the poets:

Two of the invited poets, Limam Boicha and Bahia Awah, are from the Western Sahara, but they now reside in Spain, where they have had a powerful impact on Spanish cultural life. They are founding members of the “Generación de la Amistad” (Friendship Generation) and maintain a blog, “Poemario por un Sáhara Libre” (Poems for a Free Sahara), which streamed the poetry reading live to Western Saharans living in refugee camps in Africa.

Abderrahmán El Fathi was educated in Spanish schools in Morocco and completed his PhD in Seville, Spain. He is currently chair of the Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of Tetuán in Morocco. His poetry, written in Spanish about Moroccan migration across the Strait of Gibraltar, earned him the Rafael Alberti Prize for literature in 2000.

Ana Rossetti, along with Clara Janés, Concha García and Jenaro Talens, is among the best-known living poets of Spain. Rossetti’s poems appear in every major anthology (and textbook), and they are taught in most US universities. A major figure of the Spanish cultural scene, Rossetti has written essays, novels, short stories, plays, an opera, song lyrics and fashion catalogue copy. In 2004, Jill Robbins, chair of UT’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese, published an edited volume dedicated solely to Rossetti’s work: “P/Herversions: Critical Studies of Ana Rossetti.”

Clara Janés is a titan of Spanish letters. She has published 30 books of poetry, four novels, monographic books about composers, poets and cultural contact, a handful of plays, memoirs and more than 130 translations. She has received more than 10 prizes for both her literary work and her translations.

Concha García has published eleven books of poetry and has been the recipient of several literary prizes, including the prestigious Jaime Gil de Biedma prize for her book Ayer y calles.

Jenaro Talens, yet another major poet and important cultural figure in Spain is a professor at both the University of Valencia and the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Talens held a visiting appointment for 10 years at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He is the author of 23 books of poetry, along with scholarly monographs and articles in leading peer-reviewed journals about film, poetry and critical theory.